U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
202-366-4000


Skip to content
Facebook iconYouTube iconTwitter iconFlickr iconLinkedInInstagram

Iowa Division

Home / About / Field Offices / Iowa Division

Emergency Relief Information

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief, or ER, program can help State and local agencies fund repairs to Federal-aid eligible roads, bridges, and other infrastructure after a natural disaster such as such as a flood, heavy winds, and other events.

The repair work within the right-of-way of Federal-aid highways is usually eligible to receive ER funds, if the roadway is in an affected county that is included in the Governor’s Declaration or Presidential Declaration.

The decision to seek financial assistance for a disaster event under the FHWA’s ER program rests with the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT). Local agencies with damage to Federal-aid highways should make their application for ER reimbursement through Iowa DOT. It is Iowa DOT’s responsibility to seek ER funding for the repair of Federal-aid highways, regardless of which jurisdiction.

The ER Process

The FHWA Emergency Relief Manual outlines two types of repairs following a disaster: emergency repairs and permanent repairs.

  1. Emergency repairs are made during or right after a disaster to restore essential traffic, to minimize the extent of damage, or to protect the remaining facilities. Repairs that go beyond these three objectives are permanent repairs. State and local highway authorities are empowered to immediately begin emergency repairs to restore essential traffic service and to prevent further damage to Federal-aid highway facilities. Properly documented costs with before and after photos are usually eligible for reimbursement. On the other hand, permanent repairs require prior FHWA approval.

  2. Permanent repairs are those repairs undertaken after the occurrence of a disaster to restore the highway to its pre-disaster condition. The total cost of ER funding for a project is typically limited to the cost of repair or reconstruction of a comparable facility that meets the current geometric and construction standards required for the types and volume of traffic that the facility will carry over its design life. Under certain circumstances, betterments may be eligible for if demonstrated to be cost-effective; an example would be for resilience improvements. This eligibility is limited to those portions of the facility that have been damaged.

Damage Assessments: Iowa DOT, in cooperation with FHWA Iowa Division engineers, undertakes damage surveys and/or detailed site inspections. This may include local authorities where appropriate. Typically, this involves on-the-ground visits of the damage sites to verify the extent of damage and to determine the cost of repairs eligible for ER funding. Specific sites not visited by FHWA are subject to review and approval of all required documentation.

Implementation of Projects: ER construction contracts are advanced generally in similar fashion as regular Federal-aid highway projects. Iowa DOT generally takes the lead in seeing that projects are advanced in accordance with appropriate Federal and State requirements. The total amount of ER funding provided is based on the Federal share of actual costs incurred by Iowa DOT and local highway authorities to complete eligible repair activities.

The Final ER eligibility and reimbursement will be based on the documentation submitted showing cost, justification, and compliance with Federal requirements.

Key Items for Local Authorities

  1. Identify your Federal-aid highway routes: Create a list of the Federal-aid routes in your county or community. Damage to these routes is potentially eligible for funding under FHWA’s ER program. Federal-aid highways generally include interstates, freeways, arterials, and major collector roads. Usually rural minor collectors and local roads are not eligible.

    Iowa State DOT Planning Website for Functional Classification/GIS

  2. Federal Requirements: Be familiar with the federal requirements for construction contracts and the roles and responsibilities of State and Local Agencies administering the ER Projects.

    FHWA Contract Administration Core Curriculum Manual

  3. Document emergency repair costs: If you are undertaking emergency repairs to restore essential traffic, minimize damage, or protect remaining facilities, keep good records of the costs incurred. Be sure to take pictures of the damaged area before undertaking any repair work. These will be critical when Iowa DOT or the local agency seek reimbursement under the ER program.

  4. Permanent repair work: Remember, permanent repair work requires prior approval by the FHWA division office.

Contact Information

Web Resources

The Emergency Relief process is explained in a series of four videos:

  1. Program Overview and Eligibility 
  2. Initial Steps for Requesting ER Funds 
  3. Steps for Receiving Reimbursement of ER Expenses 
  4. Emergency versus Permanent Repairs 

Note: Each video has a printable “Companion Resource” on its website.

Links to related Code of Federal Regulations and other information

Page last modified on August 24, 2021
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000